by Robb Engen, Boomer & Echo
Special to the Financial Independence Hub
Most of us are creatures of habit – we crave routine. We bank at the same place where we first opened an account. We renew our mortgage and insurance policies automatically without shopping around for better rates. Then when we see a promotional offer from a rival cable or internet provider, we complain how loyal customers get screwed.
When it comes to our finances, complacency is king. Yet many of us will drive across town just to save a few cents per litre on gas, or we’ll go to three or four different supermarkets to save a few bucks on groceries.
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with saving money on gas or groceries. But why are we willing to trade an hour or more of our time to save a few bucks when we can’t be bothered to spend 15 minutes to shop around and negotiate in the more critical areas of our finances?
Negotiating a deal can be intimidating. When the seller has more or better information than the buyer, it creates an imbalance of power. The more you know about the products and services you buy, the better the deal you’ll get.
Research the promotional offers and discounts currently available. Luckily, in this day and age, all that information is online and at your fingertips.
The best advice I can give is to shop around, or to simply ask for a better deal. Here are some other tips to help you negotiate:
1.) Check your bill often
I used to be a long-time cable subscriber with Bell. One day I called to change my cable package and was surprised to hear that I had been subscribed to a package that no longer existed in their system. It turned out I was over-paying for a similar package by more than $10 per month.
Since then, I’ve made a habit to call my cable and telephone provider annually to review my bill and get the best available price. The first time I did this ended up saving over $300 per year on cable and internet fees.
Big companies understand that most customers can’t be bothered to switch to a competitor all the time to chase the best deals. That’s why they’ll lure you in with a sweet introductory offer to get you hooked.
Next time you see your service provider offering a great deal for new customers to sign up, call and ask for a similar incentive for your account. You’ll be amazed how much you can save just by asking.
2.) Call with a purpose
You may not get your desired outcome just by calling up your bank, insurance, or cable provider and asking for a better price. You’ll need to call with a purpose in mind.
It helps to have a recent offer from the competition in your hands that you can refer to during the call. Know and understand the exact service you currently receive as well as the price you pay.
The first person you speak with might be a front line employee with little power to offer you big discounts and savings. If you’re serious about saving money then ask to speak with loyalty and retention, a department with the authority and incentive to keep you faithful and happy.
3.) Be willing to walk away
Are you willing to walk away if you don’t get what you want? There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that describes how easy it is to get the customer service representative to cave-in and do whatever it takes to keep your business, but in reality it’s not that simple.
Know what the competition offers and how it will impact your bottom line if you switch. Most of the time the introductory offer for new customers is a three-to-six month deep discount before the full price kicks in.
Explain your eagerness to switch and that you’ll give your current provider the chance to match or beat their offer. When you’re actually willing to walk away, it shows the company that you’re serious and gives the call a sense of urgency.
Make a point to review all of your recurring bills at least once a year. Comparison-shop online to see what other offers are available. Call up your current providers and ask if they have any better deals. Here are some other areas where you can save big just by asking:
Get a better rate on your mortgage – Shop and compare mortgage rates online, then ask your bank if they can match or beat the best rate. If they refuse, then make the switch.
Get a better rate on car and house insurance – Quickly and easily save on auto insurance, home insurance, and life insurance by shopping online at rate comparison websites.
Get your bank to waive your monthly account fees by asking for a multi-product discount. Whenever you open a new account, ask for a discount on other products you hold with the same bank. I managed to get free banking by merely suggesting that I might take advantage of an offer at another bank.
What are some of your best negotiating tactics?
In addition to running the Boomer & Echo website, Robb Engen is a fee-only financial planner. This article originally ran on his site on August 2nd and is republished here with his permission. See also Boomer & Echo’s 5th Anniversary contest, with prizes galore (including a copy of Findependence Day).